US court orders airline to reinstate flight attendant sacked for pro-life views

A flight attendant sacked for her religious opposition to abortion can have her job back, a US court has ruled.

The District Court for the Northern District of Texas found that Charlene Carter’s employer and union had “unlawfully fired” the crew member on the grounds “of her speech”.

Southwest Airlines and Local 556 branch of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) were told to give Carter the maximum amount of damages permitted under federal law, plus back-pay.

Religious rights

In 2017, Carter criticised Local 556 president Audrey Stone on social media for attending a march sponsored by US abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

When Stone reported Carter to the airline, she was summoned to a meeting with managers at which she explained why — on religious grounds — she objected to her union fees being used to fund TWU attendance at a pro-abortion rally.

Southwest claimed Carter’s behaviour amounted to harassment and sacked her a week later. Carter, with the help of National Right to Work (NRTW), launched legal action the same year.

In July, the sitting jury at the Court for the Northern District of Texas said the airline and union had violated Carter’s religious rights.


Now Judge Brantley Starr has granted Carter’s request to be reinstated by Southwest to her position.

In his ruling, he stated: “Bags fly free with Southwest. But free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case.”

The judge also prohibited the airline and union “from discriminating against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs, including – but not limited to – those expressed on social media and those concerning abortion”.

free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case


Welcoming the verdict, NRTW President Mark Mix said Southwest and TWU union officials made Carter “pay an unconscionable price just because she decided to speak out against the political activities of union officials in accordance with her deeply held religious beliefs”.

Southwest intends to take the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

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